Study indicates link between HIV cases, potential for conflict

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A recent Brown University study using statistical data from 36 sub-Saharan African countries shows HIV infections increase during the leading up to the breakout of armed conflict.

The study tracked incident statistics associated with the virus between 1990 and 2012, and researchers calculated the relation between infection rate increases and violence. They also took into consideration factors relating to refugee influx, economic climates and the broad epidemic that is believed to have peaked in 1996.

The data indicates that the number of infections increases to an approximated 2.1 cases per 1,000 within a five-year period leading up to a conflict. They also report that this falls by 0.7 infections as conflict is occurring. Not all countries studied followed this pattern, but countries that saw the highest infection rates prior to periods of violence included Burundi, Eritrea, Nigeria and Uganda.

"It implies that there is something going on in social, political, and health care environments in those years that are conducive to HIV spread," Brady Bennett, lead author of the Public Library of Science One study, said.

Researchers note that the decline as conflict begins could be attributed to less accurate infection reporting associated with violence breaking out, and that further studies will be needed to determine why this correlation is apparent.

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